On Founding the Alachua County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)


(Continued from Amateur Radio and Me.)

Once AC-ARES finally started getting recognition, it angered some members of GARS. They didn't think it fair. Up until then, there were no official agreements between EOC, or agencies like the Red Cross, and while GARS thought of itself as 'the' agency to provide such public service, it was actually not very actively involved in doing so.

When AC-ARES started getting real recognition and attention in the news, then certain members of GARS decided to make life tough for us. It started when I advised GARS that we were looking into creating a logo/patch for ourselves. Suddenly, Bill Wells (K4RDP) stood up and suggested GARS make rules for our operation. For example...

  • "AC-ARES must include the GARS logo on it's patches."
  • "AC-ARES must obtain uniforms which display these patches."
  • "AC-ARES cannot operate on the GARS 82 repeater unless ARES itself becomes, and is recognized as, a 'sub-part' of GARS, controlled by GARS."

It was all mostly at the suggestion and direction of Bill Wells, K4RDP. Bill Wells just couldn't seem to get the idea through his head that we were another organization entirely, and that no one - not even GARS, had the right to dictate how this other CLUB was going to operate. It would be like GARS trying to dictate how the Alachua County Audubon Society was to operate. The thing that REALLY blew us away was...everybody agreed with him and actually VOTED during an actual meeting to APPROVE and ENFORCE all of his ideas!

We asked in the beginning - when we were trying to put it all together - for help, and noone wanted to help out. We get Press attention, and suddenly we're a threat, not an ally, and GARS stepped in and decided it was time to take everything over.

Bill Wells openly bragged that he had made some private phone calls to Craig Fugate, then the Emergency Manager of the Alachua County Office of Emergency Management, and to Dick Perterson, the Director of the local Red Cross back then, and told them that we were an "irresponsible" group which had "no experience" and that we should not be trusted and that they should not form any agreements with us. In other words, he put fear of liability into the hearts of those (and other) agencies, and sabotaged us in those calls, and everything that we had worked so hard to try to do.

You know...I've often wondered if anyone got in the way of GARS's efforts when they tried to form, first-time, so many years ago. I'm willing to bet that no one did that. People acted more honorably, back then. Bill Wells didn't care about honor. In his eyes, he saw competition, and he went out of his way to destroy it...with merciless ruthlessness.

What Bill Wells did was to set an example for GARS and for all other local area hams that subterfuge, threats, harassment, and sabotaging were okay. And his example encouraged other GARS hams to repeat those methods in the years to come.

Tim Merrill doggedly and relentless tried to keep what was left of the AC-ARES group going, regardless. Tim wanted to ignore the reality of the situation. But we all knew that it was a totally lost cause. Chuck quit. I quit. Tim hung around as EC for another year, and then he TOO quit, too, eventually. It was a shame. GARS had actually succeeded in taking OVER another organization.

In late-2003, Bill Wells died. The obituary printed in the GARSMouth authored by Ed Amesbury pretty much left Bill much of the credit with forming AC-ARES. It was an unresearched fallacy. It was an incorrect assumption. No one consulted us to find out what the actual history really was. But then, who actually knew? No one in GARS ever kept a good, true record of the history of AC-ARES. What had actually happened was deliberately left OUT of all Secretary reports, and from the newsletter, for the sake of protecting GARS from 'negativities.' Bill worked with it AFTER it had been taken over by GARS; but he had zero to do with its formation and organization, and our initial ops. Of the people left (aside from the original four) who were witness to what happened, they include Chuck Broward, W4JKE, and Nick Koenigstein, WB9ELP, Walt Johnson, W4TKE. I think Walt knows; but he won't admit it. Of the others, time has largely affected their memories and when asked, they don't remember all the bad things that people did back then, either. At least...that's what they tell us, anyway.

Four people worked really hard to create from scratch a brand-new local area ARES group when noone else was willing to help out; when everyone else thought it was a really stupid idea. We did it all by ourselves when everybody else ran away and shirked responsibility. Then GARS came along and took the whole operation over - only AFTER it started becoming noticed, and proceeded to deliberately erase the actual history of it. Those four people never got any mention, no credit, and they were deliberately forgotten in all recorded histories. Earl Jones died without ever having been recognized for it, and that's not fiar to him. We were very proud of what we had done; but the recognition went to a dishonorable someone else who had stolen it out from underneath us. It wasn't right. Bill had nothing to do with composing the original Emergency Plan. I did. Bill had nothing to do with composing the original Agreements, or the Memorandums of Understanding. I did. That was all me. Bill had nothing to do with the creation of anything. We had no clue what we were doing and nobody wanted to help us - including Bill Wells. And we put it all together ourselves. Bill stole the work of others. That's what Bill did.

If I seem a tad bitter about it, you'll have to forgive me. The whole thing was rather unnatural. You don't expect people who once claimed to be your friend to stab you in the back. And when it happens, you're a different person from that point on.

And so, I would herein like to correct a grave injustice made to a good man. Earl Jones, NF4O, was my mentor. He was an awesome personality and a really good-hearted man who did no wrong and no harm to anyone. He only wanted to help people, to encourage people, to TEACH people. He really enjoyed doing that. He had confidence IN me. He inspired confidence in me, and pride...something I didn't have previously. He taught me how to push into the face of the unknown, and to TRY. He told me I could do it when I said I can't. And he kept pushing. That was Earl.

Earl Jones was the one who originally came up with the AC-ARES idea locally, not Bill Wells. ...And it was Earl Jones who encouraged the club to form one. But the club wasn't interested at that time, and tried to tell him that we didn't NEED such a thing. And so, Earl turned to us. He did it to help the community. He did it to help give us something to encourage us and to give us something to be proud of. "North Florida Forty" he used to call himself.

EARL deserved credit for the founding of the ARES group, for helping the four of us put it together. Bill Wells had nothing to do with that. Bill Wells took the hard work other people did, and claimed credit for it. This is dishonorable. Three people still living on this earth know better. Three people on this earth are actual witnesses to what really happened. You want the truth about the founding of AC-ARES? Ask Tim Merrill / KJ4PH, Todd Sherman / KB4MHH, or Chuck Smyder / KK4HP.

We remember you, Earl. We won't forget what you tried to do. We were honored and proud to know you. Thanks for your encouragements, and for your patience, and encouraging me personally to keep trying whenever I thought that I couldn't do something. You are the original Alachua County ARES. You deserve that title.

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Created: June 28, 1995.
Last Updated: June 28, 1996, January 02, 2004, Sep. 14, 2010.

Mail to: Todd L. Sherman (afn09444@afn.org)
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